This week, we are celebrating Charlie as the Auction of Washington Wines’ 2018 Honorary Vintner. And, in the midst of our excitement and party planning and wine coordination, Charlie is keeping on as his steady self, preparing for another harvest in Washington…his 31st to be exact.
I recently celebrated my 10-year anniversary with Charlie and Fidelitas. It was so exciting for me. It was the longest job I had ever held, and I know that there is limitless growth and opportunity working with Charlie. However, I now realize that my decade is nothing in comparison to his three in Washington. And if I feel so inspired by my 10 years, there have to be so many others out there who have been influenced and taught by Charlie over the years.
Here is a bit of what Team Fidelitas had to say about Charlie:
I first met Charlie while working for Bob and Roger Gamache. I had recently completed my degree at WSU, and was eager to start my winemaking career. Charlie was always supportive and encouraging, and now 12 years later we are getting ready to start our 9th harvest together. Along the way I have had an amazing opportunity to not only learn about wine and winemaking, but more importantly how to be a good husband, father, and member of the community. I will always be thankful for all that he has shared with me. - Mitch Venohr, Associate Winemaker
There is so much to say about Charlie as a person and not just his talent as a winemaker. Having the blessing of knowing and working for him for almost eight years has given me a perspective from behind the scene as to his character; who he is on the inside. I have observed Charlie’s kindness to others, his friendly easy-going nature always respectful to a situation and people around him. He is so very generous of his time and knowledge for others and he has a funny bone that comes out with wit and ease. He also lives his life with integrity, true to his beliefs inside and out before family, friends, and coworkers. It is my honor to work for this compassionate man. - Kathleen Batchelder, Team Fidelitas
I met Charlie in 2010, sitting across a picnic table at a little restaurant in Benton City, where I boldly convinced him that I could build a laboratory in his new winery. From that moment on, Charlie has supported all of my crazy mad scientist experimentation and winemaking ideas. He understands my passion for learning and lends me the platform to develop new techniques that drive our winemaking style. I often get an eye roll and a laugh when I tell him, "I have an idea" and lead him to the white board in my office. Then he says, "ok, lets try it...." - Hillary Sjolund, Associate Winemaker
From hearing Charlie's drive to make 'the best wine yet', to traveling to various wine regions together for education, and learning how connected he is throughout the industry, or sharing beautiful bottles of wine over great meals, every experience with Charlie is awe-inspiring. I feel so honored to be a part of his Fidelitas family. Some of my favorite memories are from spending time with Charlie during harvest on Red Mountain last year, drinking our morning coffee, and listening to him talk about all of the careful and meticulous processes that he puts into each wine we make. Charlie's passion, paired with his overwhelming kindness and humbleness is inspirational for us all. - Michelle Marsh, Fidelitas DTC Manager
It's been a pleasure working with Charlie over the years, he has showed me time and time again, how meaningful and supportive the wine industry can be. His kindness and generosity reflect in every aspect of his business. It's also eye opening to work for someone who constantly has nice things to say about his peers, he is always positive and shows us daily that we can't do our jobs without the support of everyone who works in the wine industry. It all starts from the ground up! Charlie has also taught me how to enjoy wine and champagne (to never get a house palate) and to always stop and enjoy the simple things in life! His general passion for a nice bottle of wine, sharing a meal with family and friends over great conversation is what it's all about! - Chelsea Larson, Fidelitas Red Mountain Tasting Room Manager
When I first met Charlie he had been named Winemaker of the Year by Seattle Magazine just one year prior. Now, 5 years later, he has been named Honorary Vintner by The Auction of Washington Wines. In these past few years working with him I have learned that there is no one more deserving of these amazing titles than Charlie himself. I'm lucky enough to witness his profound love for Washington wine, Fidelitas, and his family. It's been an honor to say I've learned from Charlie and because of him, there is no other industry I would rather work in. - Skye Dissette, Fidelitas Club Concierge
I thank my dad, Charlie, for laying out the path for me and the many second generation Washington winemakers. His work ethic, thousands of hours spent in the vineyard and winery, determination to never cut corners, commitment to making the best wines in the world, and relentless joy for wine-making are incredibly inspiring. Here's to another 30 years of making wine in our home state! - Will Hoppes, Fidelitas Woodinville Tasting Room Manager, Charlie’s kid, and second generation Fidelitas
My own personal story began more than 10 years ago, when my interview with him consisted of driving around Red Mountain vineyard sites in his dusty pickup. Listening to him that afternoon, I saw his passion for making wine in Washington state and knew instantly that I had so much to learn. Since then, he has become a part of my family, a baby-whisperer for my girls, a mentor, and someone I look forward to awesome new ventures with. I used to dread when he called me during harvest or blending because I knew he was going to ask about making some crazy wine. But now I see that it is all a part of the amazing experience of working with Charlie. There is no recipe, no consistency…just something we call modern craft winemaking that promises to still produce ‘our best wine yet’.
“We are gathered here today, celebrating Jess and Ben, at a winery who’s name not only translates to ‘faithful, loyal, true’, but at a winery who’s owner, and our host tonight, embodies these words. And I cannot think of a better way to start a marriage.” Those are words that my uncle spoke during a toast at my wedding. And while I’ve pondered the meaning of the name ‘Fidelitas’ many, many times, the weight of it really struck me as I was sitting there, surrounded by the most special and important people in my life, marrying my husband.
That was 8 years ago this month, and while I seem to be attending more baby showers than weddings these days, wine is still my favorite gift for newlyweds. Here are my favorite three ways to share Fidelitas:
A bottle for now and a bottle for later.
This one is super easy. Grab a cute, reusable tote (I love my BUILT bag) and add a bottle of Red Mountain Malbec, which can be enjoyed this summer with BBQ, and a bottle of Quintessence Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which could be opened on the lucky couple’s 5 or 10-year anniversary.
This is kind of similar, in that you’re encouraging people to hang on to the wine to open for a special anniversary down the road. Even better, grab a couple big bottles and have friends and family sign well wishes right on the bottle with a metallic sharpie. My brother and sister-in-law did a 750ml, 1.5L, and 3L, (for one year, five years, and ten years) used this as their guest book, and then have opened the bottles with friends in the years since. (pro note: contact us for current availability on large formats. we may be able to find something amazing!)
A Wine Club Gift Membership is a great way to give a gift that will last a while. We can give you a gift certificate to include with your card now, and then will send bottles to the couple throughout their first year of marriage. If they live locally, they can come out to the winery to pick up or join us at our upcoming events!
Let our Club Concierge team help you put together a wedding gift that celebrates faithful, loyal, and true, and a happy wedding season to you all!
The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate from Fidelitas, one of the flagship releases from the estate, spent 22 months in 71% new French oak. Its deep, inky purple/ruby color is followed by an impressive bouquet of ripe plums, black cherries, tobacco, and leafy herbs. Picking up more chocolate and graphite characteristics with time in the glass, this full-bodied, rich, nicely concentrated effort has fine tannin, good purity of fruit, and nicely integrated acidity.
The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Quintessence (100% Cabernet aged in 83% new French oak) offers more tobacco, spring flower, and violets characteristics, as well as a full-bodied, pure, balanced style on the palate. With lots of blue fruits, ripe tannin, and terrific purity, it's going to keep for 10-15 years. It's another high-quality, balanced wine from this estate.
Another 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from this estate, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Blackwood Canyon (22 months in 71% new French oak) offers a plumper, more sweetly fruited, sexy style. Blackcurrants, blueberries, scorched earth and Asian spice notes all give way to a full-bodied, plump, rounded, yet still structured effort that has considerable depth and richness, all while not being heavy. It too will keep for 10-15 years. While I found all these 2015s to be outstanding wines, they're certainly more similar than different.
From one of my favorite vineyards on Red Mountain, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Ciel du Cheval spent 22 months in 29% new French oak. Black cherry, blueberries, violets, spring flowers, and lavender notes all emerge from the glass and it has a rich, rounded, voluptuous style on the palate. Nicely balanced, with sweet tannin, it's another rocking wine from Fidelitas to enjoy over the coming 10-15 years.
The 2015 Optu Red Mountain is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. It's another inky-colored effort that gives up plenty of graphite, tobacco, and black cherry/currants styled fruits. It has lots of Cabernet Sauvignon character, the savory tannin of the Red Mountain terroir, and a great finish.
The classic 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain (100% Cabernet aged 22 months in 80% new French oak) offers pure, elegant notes of crème de cassis, crushed flowers, and violets, with a medium to full-bodied, silky, nuanced style on the palate. Less powerful and tannic than some of the other cuvées here, it still has beautiful purity and well-integrated acidity, and is a beautiful wine that's going to drink well for 10-15 years.
A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to sit on a panel in front of industry peers to discuss the benefits of “Custom Clubs”. That is, I chatted about the Fidelitas Wine Club and the hows and whys of letting our members select their own Club allocations. This is a big deal! It’s breaking away from the traditional Club model of “we choose wines and send whatever we want to you” that has been followed since the dawn of Wine Clubs. And while all of the boring (inventory) details may not be best suited for this blog, I think that there are a few key points worth sharing:
Selecting what is best for your cellar
Is your vertical of Optu Red Mountain growing nicely? Wish you had more Merlot and less Cabernet? Allowing members to create their own combination of wines in each allocation gives people the chance to take home the wines that they really want to shape their cellar. We are releasing 3 -4 brand new wines at each Club release, and members can select the exact quantities of what they are going to enjoy the most.
It’s important to note here that some members told us they don’t want the additional work of selecting Club allocations. I get it. Day to day life offers so many choices that sometimes you want wine to be the easy part. So – we will always have a pre-selected allocation as well that means great wines with no effort.
Winemakers get to have more fun
This is maybe the best part. Both for the members, and for us at Fidelitas. If we asked every Club member to take the exact same Club allocation, Charlie would be stuck making large quantities of the exact same wine in every vintage. The problem is, Charlie loves to make small lot quantity wines each year based on what comes in to the cellar. Following a custom club model means that he gets to create wines that are maybe 50 – 140 cases total, and members get to select these wines for their shipments. It’s a win/win, really.
Convenient ship windows and special pricing
We first started offering custom clubs to our out of state members. Knowing that they are often dealing with the inconvenience of having wines shipped when the weather may be too hot or too cold, and needing to have an adult signature for delivery, we wanted to design a Club just for them. Our Electus Club is designed to ship wine only in moderate temperature months, and offers additional discounts and complimentary shipping when 6-bottle shipments are rounded up to a case.
Try before you buy
Just last weekend, we launched our “preview tastings”. Two times per year, Custom Club members are invited to taste through the line up of upcoming releases and build their allocations at that time. We love letting people experience the wines before they make their selections, and also found that it was a great time to just connect with members and help them learn the ropes of our new allocation system.
I recently sat down with my staff to think about the real benefits of being a Club member, beyond just what we print in the Club brochure. Every member of Team Fidelitas contributed their ideas, and we came up with over 2 pages of notes. From that exercise, one of the items that stuck out to me most is that we truly make wines just for Club members.
Now – that is an easy thing to say for some. “Club-exclusive” is a common thing to see at wineries. However, I realized that it is so much more than that at Fidelitas. One of part of my job is to work with Charlie and design how our releases will look up to 3 years in advance. Already, we are talking about which wines we want to make from grapes that will be harvested this upcoming fall. That means, we are having discussions about how much fruit to buy 5 months from now to make a wine that won’t be released until 3 years from now. We are looking at spreadsheets, and forecasts, and weather patterns, just to determine what wines we’ll make for just our Club members. This isn’t an after the fact decision. Your Club allocation is truly chosen by Charlie 3 years before you will take it home. Over the course of those 3 years, Charlie is ensuring that wine in your allocation is “one of the best we’ve ever made” (one of our favorite Charlie-isms).
Our 2013 Red Heaven Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is exactly one of those wines. We make this wine in exceptional vintages, where the fruit is just perfect to make a vineyard designated wine. After much fussing, we settled on making just 96 cases - not even enough to include in a Club shipment, but still special enough to make sure that it is a Club only wine. Designed, starting in spring of 2013, with the Club in mind.
Charlie, walking the vines in Red Heaven Vineyard.